An immigrant is a person who moves to live permanently in another country, like any other incidence its obvious to go through various challenges while in a new place. The transition from one’s usual lie and environment could be quite a hustle. Lee’s family moves from Korea to America, where they have to adopt as immigrants. The lifestyle from language to food is deferent to what they are used to. Their father does not have such good pay, so they have to live within a budget. Their mother, the homemaker, has to counter several challenges as they settle in America.
The giant number o cockroaches disgrace lee’s mother in her house. She makes sure her house is super clean, but this does not bar the grand army o cockroaches away. She uses bleach every time she sees a cockroach at her place, but this does not seem to be enough. They are only able to keep the pests away for a few weeks after they superbomb the building. However, the lean and fast cockroaches can survive and show up in the cupboards later on, while others come from neighbouring units. This makes the mother so overwhelmed as her efforts seem to bear no fruit. She complains to the father and thinks that the only possible way out is relocating or clearing the kitchen of all foodstuff not to cook again in the same house.
The mother has trouble with communication as she only understands little English. She does not confront Kathy after she has bullied Lee and spoken ill to her. She cannot decipher what Kathy is talking about and instead softly tells Lee to get into the house. Besides this, she seems to be afraid of the girl since she is a foreigner in this land. She gets furious at her very own self when she cannot understand the instructions on a box of Rice-A-Roni or Hamburger Helper. Like him, Lee observes that her mother never calls out for help as she wrings the packet like a towel until it is almost bursting, yet he is around and can help her out. Due to this, they eat magical dinners as it is not clear if the mother understands the English instructions and recipes.
The mother hates that she has to be cooking almost every time to save on expenditure. If she is not cleaning or doing laundry, then she is cooking. Even her son Lee eats while watching her cook. They currently cannot eat out regularly as the father’s new job as a minted psychiatrist is not paying him well. The parents also prefer eating Korean food to the new American delicacies since they are familiar with them. To add to that, she can quickly recreate the Korean dishes from ingredients she easily gets from the nearby A. & P. The chilled supermarket has a variety of ingredients she uses though their cabbage is wrong, meat oddly butchered, and fish pre-filleted so she cannot tell how fresh it is. The lack of its head bones and skin makes it hard to make a good broth. However, she has to use the available ingredients once in a while, and she can get proper oils, fresh tofu, dried anchovies and roasted seaweed while visiting Chinatown.
Life in a foreign country has made her easily distraught. She is not as free since she is full of doubt, not knowing what might happen next. She has to listen to herself so keenly and cannot even smile like herself in Korea. She does not get the perfect ingredients to make her food as sweet as it should be. She complains that the Chinatown radishes do not have flavour and crunch and the quality of meet she gets is stringy. Not to forget the wrong type of fermented bean paste she has to employ while doing her meals. Unlike the beautifully talented and forthright lady in Korea, she appears even lighter than she already is and is barely voiced.
The mother has difficulty trying out a new recipe for making American food. She does not know how the finished food should test and has to struggle to prepare them. Thanks to Mrs Churchill, her new neighbour, she can copy recipes into her small notebook. She has trouble finding ingredients as they are called different from what she is used to. She cannot recognize what “pureed” exactly means. For this, she does not know how her food is and can quickly feel bad owing to a nasty comment or grimace. However, Lee is responsible for making her feel happy and appreciated by acknowledging that her food is good.
The mother has a limited number of friends who can help her out at times of need. She has no choice but to bake the turkey instead o roasting as per the recipe. She has no one else to borrow a Roast setting or this since Mrs Churchill has let or the holidays. She is also not sure of the outcome as she has never cooked a turkey before. She remains desperate throughout the process and bites her lower lip depicting how unsure she is with herself. She cannot even get a meat thermometer and is all messed and has lost track of time or the oven. She is not able to tell when the turkey is ready or serving. She sees a piece o plastic pop up from the breast and thinks that it is time even though she is unsure. Together with Lees father, they pull it out of the oven and lift it o the pan. They are undecided on how to serve the stuffing and are not at ease with their new food (Chang-Rae). They find the turkey to be surprisingly sot on the first cut.
Life as an immigrant is not as pleasant for the mother. She finds a lot of o things disgusting during her stay in the new land. She complains even o cockroaches and is not able to find appropriate ingredients for her cooking. She is not also good at English, and this makes her have difficulty. She lacks the sense of belonging and low self-esteem evidenced when she cannot defend Lee against Kathy’s insults. She also has a hard time trying to prepare American food. She is even more embarrassed by the act that she cannot understand the instructions on a box of rice. She ends up cooking through assumptions and guesses hence the title ‘magical dinner’. Through this incidence, the challenges of the mother as an immigrant are well exposed.
Lee, Chang-Rae. “Magical dinners: an immigrant Thanksgiving.” New Yorker (New York, NY: 1925) (2010): 68-73.